Chicago Cubs: We’ve seen the best and worst of Justin Wilson

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have seen Justin Wilson be two different people in his tenure with the club since coming over from Detroit last season.

The beginning of Justin Wilson’s time with the Chicago Cubs was awful. In the second half of the 2017 season, Wilson looked like disastrous on the mound, failing to command his pitches. However, in 2018, he has looked much better.

For the years, Wilson carries a 2.93 ERA, his lowest since 2013 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Compared to the second half of 2017, it’s drastically better.

In the two months Wilson was in a Cubs uniform in 2017, he posted a 5.09 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. What’s more alarming is his 20.2 percent walk rate. Wilson struck out 25 opposing batters but walked 19.

More from Cubbies Crib

He came over to the Cubs projected to be a late-inning, high-leverage reliever. By season’s end, Joe Maddon’s trust in him waned to nothing. He failed to even make a postseason appearance.

He made the roster in the NLDS but did not pitch. In the NLCS, the Cubs left him off the roster.

A lot riding on this season

Needless to say, this season is big for his career. In the short-term, he needed to earn Maddon’s trust back after stumbling last summer. Another motivator? This marks the last year of his current contract.

At 30 years old, the Cubs paid Wilson $4.2 million for this season. Time will tell if he will get a pay raise this upcoming offseason.

Overall, Wilson has answered the call. In 30 2/3 innings, the southpaw has 42 strikeouts compared to 24 walks. To go with his stellar ERA, Wilson’s only allowed two home runs, is holding opposing batters to a .194 batting average and is striking out batters at a 31.8 percent clip. His walk rate is down to 18.2 percent, which isn’t a major difference but the fact still remains.

A lot more good than bad so far in 2018

All in all, he’s become a focal point of a loaded Cubs bullpen — when each reliever is healthy — as Maddon likes to go to him when lefties are due up. He unfortunately was the reliever in a game in game one of the doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. Los Angeles made its ninth inning comeback against Wilson in a gut-wrenching loss.

The rally began with a leadoff walk by Wilson. He did not fare well in his next appearance over the weekend in Cincinnati either, giving up one run on two hits and a walk in his inning of work on June 22, but the entire Cubs team as a whole was bad.

He has had his highs and lows, but now is a time when the Cubs need him to step up in high leverage spots. With Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow both out he’s been called upon along with the likes of Pedro Strop as the two veteran horses in the bullpen.

Wilson still looking to get locked back in

Brian Duensing is another veteran name that needs to return to form and help lead the bullpen back to top form as he’s struggled over the last month, posting a 20.25 ERA since May 29. Duensing had allowed one run all season until that date.

Next: Is a shutdown left-hander on the Cubs' radar?

Heading into Los Angeles this week, Wilson and the rest of the team knew they needed to get back on track after an atrocious weekend against the Reds.

With the Cubs locked in a tight battle Monday night, Wilson got the call. He turned in two-thirds of an inning, allowing one run on one hit, striking out one in the loss. It seems he’s still looking for redemption.